Posts Tagged ‘L pod’

Best Trip Ever !

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

As the sun was looming low in the sky, the Sea Lion headed out once more to show our guests a wonderful time with our Southern Resident Killer Whales. We headed out through the whirling up-wells in the San Juan Channel and met our whales in Cattle Pass. We met them with as much excitement as they appeared to be feeling! Some L-Pod members were in the Pass; they were already breaching, tail slapping, and traveling close together. They swam increasingly close to Goose Island, jumping out of the water, rolling over onto their backs, cartwheeling through the water … it was amazing!

The whales jumped and carried on around Goose Island and were heading south to meet up with more of L-Pod. Two family groups were coming together and were about to collide with power and enthusiasm. Captain Mike re-positioned the boat and we waited in anticipation for the two groups to meet, and when they did it was spectacular! I’ve read that when two family groups, or pods, meet up they celebrate. This was certainly the case, and it was the best celebration I’ve ever witnessed as a naturalist. Whales were breaching out of the water in synchronicity, three at a time sometimes, tail slapping, rolling, spyhoping etc. Calves were breaching with excitement, and continued to do so long after the older females began to settle. We even heard them all vocalizing when we dropped the hydrophone into the water. If I could understand Orca, I would say they were happy to be reunited!

I felt very fortunate to whiteness this family gathering. This was the best example of how intelligent and social these graceful beings are. We are just now beginning to understand how deep our Resident Orcas social structure and culture is rooted in them. They have traditions and vocalization styles all of their own, it is unique. It is thought that these family’s have inhabited the Salish Sea since the last ice age and it shows. What myself, Captain Mike and our guests saw tonight was a small part of history in the making. It was magical.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Whales and Lighthouses.

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Today, Captain Jim and myself, got to spend our afternoon a little differently since we had a charter on the M/V Kittiwake. This charter was special because we got a great family from Chicago, Illinois, who had an affinity for lighthouses! I got to “wow” them with my endless knowledge of lighthouses, or at least about the lighthouses on San Juan Island. As we took a leisurely drive along the west side of San Juan Island, we were able to see both Cattle Point and Lime Kiln Lighthouses. Both of these lighthouses are run on solar energy, and are completely automated. Lime Kiln was the last of the lighthouses to be fully automated in 1950, when they finally made the switch from incandescent oil vapor lamp to an electric bulb. Lime Kiln is also the site of Lime Kiln Whale Watching Park! Today was a great day for those frequenting the shores of Lime Kiln, as well as our passengers aboard, when we came across a large group of L Pod. Not only did we get to take a closer look at lighthouses but we also got to see L Pod breaching! All in all, a great day to spend our Saturdays.

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris

They’re Back !!!

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Yes, you read that right! L-Pod is back, and all of them! There was lots of excitement from crew and passengers alike when we heard the reports of L-Pod earlier today, and even more when we saw them!The whales were off the south end of Vancouver Island, BC and it’s a good thing they were headed into the Straight of Juan de Fuca; it took us about an hour and forty-five minuets to get to them, any further and they would have been out of reach!

When we arrived on site with the whales all of L-Pod was there! We even saw L-41 traveling with L-77 and her calf as well. The whales were in a tight formation, traveling in what we call a “resting” position. It was great to see them all again after a week without them, and to have the whole pod back is amazing!

Even though we only had a short viewing time since it took us so long to get there, it was a beautiful trip. We had the snow-capped Olympic Mountains as our backdrop, towering upwards as a reminder that land can still be as untamed and wild as the whales we were watching. It was a powerful reminder of how small I really am, but when you’re watching these Orcas swim by so gracefully with the mountains in the distance, it brings out different forms of emotion in us all. It brings out the curiosity, the excitement, and the part of us that is still wild. It brings us together as humans with a common hope to protect the things that are still wild.

It was a fabulous trip, and while our time with the whales was short, it was a time for learning and reflecting and that is priceless.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

A Sunset of Whales

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Sunset trips happen to be Captain Mike and I’s favorite trips to go out on with our guests. Tonight was great! We left Friday Harbor and went to the south end of San Juan Island, through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait. The whales were right off of Eagle Point and were spread out feeding. Mega (L-41) was there, as well as Ocean Sun (L-25) who happens to be the oldest female in L-Pod. These guys seemed to be on a course of their own hunting for the Chinook Salmon they prefer to eat. They were surfacing many times without a consistent path of travel. That however, worked in our favor because we were able to get some great views of the whales!

We also saw three Minke Whales which happen to be one of the smallest baleen whales! The Minkes came awfully close to our boat and were feeding on the large quantity of Krill and Sand Lance in the area. Minkes are pretty small whales at only 25-30 feet long but definitely look very cool up close!

As we headed back to Friday Harbor, the sun was beginning to set. We left the towering dorsal fins in the background to hunt and continue on without us. It was a beautiful scene…very peaceful and calm. I love our evening trips!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Summer Time and the Livin’ Is Easy…With Minke and L Pod Sightings!

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

We brought in the start of a new summer with great weather on the water today! Crew and passengers alike, busted out their shorts and sunscreen while we sped out of Friday Harbor to catch up with some of our favorite summer friends, our resident orcas,  L Pod.  We didn’t have to go far since L Pod was grazing along the west side of San Juan Island searching for their favorite food, Chinook salmon. Chinook salmon makes up 80 percent of resident orcas diet and on average they eat about 200-400 lbs of food a day! Sure is a lot of salmon!

Most of L Pod was spread out along the coastline constantly searching for food to curb that ravenous hunger. And lucky for us, we met up Mega, L-41, and Ocean Sun, L-25, right off of Eagle Point. We were even greeted with Bald Eagle calls in the distance! Mega and Ocean Sun didn’t disappoint our guests today as they slowly meandered along the coastline giving ample opportunities to get great shots of these resident orcas while foraging.

L Pod wasn’t the only type of whale out enjoying the productive waters off San Juan Islands’ coastline. We also got great views of Minke whales not too far away! Minke whales, unlike Orcas, are baleen whales that have bristle-like plates that they use to filter plankton and small fish out of large gulps of seawater. These guys are one of the smaller of the baleen whales, but no less impressive to see at close range. Overall it was a great opportunity to see not one, but two very different types of whales that live right off the coastline of San Juan Island!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

A Plethora of Whales!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

It was a beautiful day to be on the water! We left Friday Harbor and headed south through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait where we hoped to encounter some whales. On our way out, we came across numerous Harbor Seals that were utilizing the the upwellings created by the tidal current. These upwellings are a great place for the Harbor Seals to forage and we love seeing their little heads bobbing up and down in the water!

When we got on scene with the whales Keven and I quickly identified the whales as the “L-12″ group. My favorite, Mega (L-41), Mystery (L-85) and even Ocean Sun (L-25) who was estimated to be born in 1928! Ocean Sun is the oldest female in L pod; and, as we know, male killer whales will stay with their mother and family group their entire life- they’re big Mamma’s Boys!

Not only did we see our Resident L Pod today, but we also saw a Humpback Whale and Minke Whale foraging! It was great to see such a diversity of whales today, we were all lucky to be on such an amazing tour! All in all, it was a great day!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Transients and L-Pod together?!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Today Captain Mike, naturalist Caitlin and myself headed out of the San Juan Channel, through Cattle Pass and to the south end of the Haro Strait. We had heard rumors about the whale activity on the south end of the island and hoped to encounter L-Pod and even some transient killer whales! This trip we had a particularly great, enthusiastic group of guests on board and our hopes were high when we saw our first spout from our resident L-Pod.

This is the second day that L-Pod has been in the Salish Sea and we’re very happy to welcome them back after being away for about a week. We encountered L-25, Ocean Sun and four others. They were in a particularly good mood today, breaching, logging, and tail slapping! Of course, researchers haven’t really figured out why these whales “breach”, “log” or “tail slap” but I’d like to think that when we witnessed the behavior, it was because they were having fun!

We also encountered something very rare today- we saw transient killer whales in the same general location! These two groups of whales are rarely seen in such close proximity to one another, and often times can be quite adversarial. These two types of orca are very different as they differ in their social structures, habitat preference, diet, morphology, pigmentation, and even genetically! Our resident orcas consume mostly Chinook salmon and do so at 400 pounds a day! Our transient orcas prey predominantly on marine mammals such as harbor seals, harbor porpoise, and Dall’s porpoise. It was certainly a treat to see these two very different forms of Killer whales in the same day! Our guests definitely learned more about identifying certain whales today, since they could clearly see the difference in their dorsal fins and saddle patches! What a phenomenal day! “Work” seems to get better and better!

Heather, Naturalist, Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Panoramic Views of L Pod Along the South end of San Juan Island

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Today we left Friday Harbor with a full boat of eager passengers who were determined to see some Orcas, and L Pod did not let them down! Captain Mike, Naturalist Andrew, and myself, did not have to go far to encounter L Pod stretched out along south end of San Juan Island. We stayed with a subgroup of L Pod hanging around Salmon Bank for the majority of the trip. This proved to be an excellent decision when a group of females and juvenile males repeatedly displayed breaches, tail slaps, and even the occasional barrel roll!
L Pod consists of 39 individual and they all seemed to be out and about today. Only L87 was missing, who seems to have done a switch-a-roo and is commonly seen swimming alongside Granny, our 102 year old J Pod member.
Since the Orcas were out in full and dispersed along the horizon, it gave passengers aboard the M/V Sea Lion an excellent opportunity to see panoramic views of our resident pod! I don’t think that it hurt to have glassy water and brilliant blue skies to add to the trips overall success. Looking forward to another great day on the water tomorrow!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Amazing foraging displays from J Pod!

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Unlike yesterdays tumultuous seas, it was a rather pleasant day on the water. The sun came out, and was quickly followed by sightings of J Pod. Soon after heading north out of Friday Harbor, we met up with Granny of J Pod, near Open Bay. Captain Mike, Naturalist Kevin, Naturalist Heather, and myself stuck around to watch Granny for a bit, but she was foraging at a brisk pace so we decided to check out some of her more playful family members further south.
Once we got closer, we were in for quite the show with a plethora of behaviors. There was tail slapping, breaching, and lots of spy hopping! Although as whale watchers and avid photographers it’s great to see these animals jumping and splashing around, it’s important to remember that all those behaviors are tools that Orcas use to forage for their food source. Whether it be tail slapping or breaching, Orcas can use those techniques to corral salmon into tight balls, or ‘bait balls’, to make their food easier to manage. Today we also got to see J pod utilizing the deep waters right off the coast of Kellets Bluff to potentially back salmon up against the coastline. It was amazing opportunity to see the intelligence and efficiency of these animals while foraging! Can’t wait to see what our Naturalists will see next on our sunset whale watching tour today!

Caitlin, Naturalist M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Great sighting of Blackberry, J-27, of J Pod!

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Heading out of Friday Harbor, we zipped out towards Salmon Bank, where reports of J Pod and a few L’s were hanging out. Captain Jim and myself were able to make great time out to the whales since we were riding out in style in the Kittiwake, our original San Juan Safaris boat! Kittiwake is a great boat to get a very personalized and scenic view of the whales. This trip only emphasized that point. Our guests, along with the crew, were extremely surprised when Blackberry, J-27, and a few others from J pod, popped up right next to our boat! J Pod seemed to be moving steadily northwards but made a quick underwater change of direction. It’s difficult to say what exactly caused this sudden change in direction, but it is possible they were on the prowl for their favorite food source, Chinook salmon. What ever the reason, this was a first time sighting of Orcas for our out of town guests, and I don’t think it could have gone any better! Overall, today was a success with great sightings and great company.

Caitlin, Naturalist- Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris